Gear Maintenance


Clyde and crew floating down the Grand Canyon
© Jenni Robinson

A good motto is “If I take good care of my gear, it will take care of me.” You’ve made the investment in excellent equipment; taking a bit of time to clean, repair, and preserve it will ensure it keeps you safe and works well for a long time.

With inflatable boats, repair any wear spots, peeling seams and D-rings. Boats being put away should be thoroughly washed, cleaned and dried before storing. Inflatable Boat Cleaner does a good job of removing dirt and stubborn stains. Give the boat a good coat of 303 Protectant; it’s an excellent preservative finish for Hypalon® and PVC boats. The ideal way to store a boat is partially inflated. This takes a lot of room and may not be an option. If not, roll it as loosely as possible to prevent sharp creases in the fabric. If at all possible, store boats inside and up off the floor. If you must store outside, cover tightly with a heavy-duty tarp. Almost every spring we hear from one or more customers who’ve had rodents burrow into their stored boats. At its worst, this destroys a boat, and in a best-case scenario it creates a massive repair job – take precautions, like keeping boats up off the floor and controlling the critters.

When you put your hardshell kayak away for any appreciable amount of time, give it the care it deserves. Wash it inside and out and let it dry thoroughly. Putting on a coat of 303 Protectant is a good idea. This is the time to make any repairs, so it’s ready to go when the boating urge hits. Put on a tight cockpit cover to keep out insects and other varmints. Store the boat inside, if possible. Poly kayaks are subject to “oil canning”, a process of deformation when stored improperly. The best position for storage is on end, against the wall or corner of a garage or shop. The next best would probably be slung from wall or ceiling on two wide straps placed approximately equal distances from the ends and each other. Boats made of fiberglass and composite materials are less subject to oil canning but should also be stored with care.

Look at Drywear Care and Check Out Your Drywear for tips on taking care of drysuits and drytops. All other apparel pieces should be clean and dry before storing. Hand wash waterproof, breathable garments. It’s best to just rinse them in fresh water. If you do need additional help in removing dirt and stains, use a product like ReviveX Fabric Cleaner that has the right ingredients for cleaning and protecting these high tech fabrics.

Always rinse your neoprene gear in fresh water after every use. Wetsuit Shampoo is specially formulated to clean and preserve neoprene. Using this product is especially important if you wear your gear in a swimming pool. Chlorine really eats up rubber. Don’t forget to give your neoprene sprayskirt the same level of care. Some gear like wetshoes and synthetic fabric base layers are particularly subject to holding odors. When normal washing doesn’t take care of the problem, use a product like MiraZyme or Sink The Stink that destroys odor causing microbes and compounds.

Mildew is caused by mold. It’s ugly, it stinks and it grows in places that are damp, warm and with low air circulation. Does this sound like your gear, rope or tent bags? It could be if you don’t pull-out, clean and dry your boating gear before putting it away.

Touring Lake Chatcolet
© Mike Hood

Life jackets don’t last forever. Check yours for torn or worn fabric, broken zippers and buckles. Over time, they lose buoyancy. The real world test is to put it on and get in the water. If it doesn’t float you as high as it used to, if it doesn’t keep your chin well above water – replace it! Hopefully, you are wearing it all the time you’re on the water; the sun’s rays weaken the fabric, so this is another great place to use 303 Protectant.

Check over your safety gear. Replace worn ropes, webbing and rescue bags. Go through your medical kits and replace used and out of date supplies. Follow manufacturer directions for storage of water filters you have used. Rinse coolers and water containers with a dilute bleach solution (1 tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water) and air dry before storing them.

Look at the articles and links in Repair/Care and Boating Resources for more information on repairing and taking care of your gear.

Take care of your boating equipment and it will take care of you. Preventative maintenance and some tender loving care goes a long way toward prolonging the life of your gear and keeping your boating safe and enjoyable!